Jay McAllister is more commonly known by his stage name 'Beans on Toast'. His unpretentious nature and communal folk sing-alongs have assured his place as a north London legend. Playing countless gigs in bedrooms and bars across the UK has seen him build a dedicated following. His gigs - always shambolic and never dull soon attracted the attention of indie label Xtra Mile and in 2009 he released the epic 50 track compilation 'Standing On A Chair', the follow up 'Writing On The Wall' cemented his position as one of the Capitals' best loved everyman poets. With production duties enlisted to fellow label mate and touring partner Frank Turner, his latest album 'Trying To Tell The Truth' was released earlier this year to noticeable anticipation.
Beans on Toast's 2012 kicked off in raucous fashion when he opened for Turner to a crowd of thousands at Wembley Arena. Ever the joker he promptly concluded in the aptly titled "Wembley" that he was "only ever famous at Frank Turner gigs". While there may be a dose of truth in that statement, it was undeniably clear that for those in the crowd who didn't know who he was (and yes, they were the obvious minority) his carefree demeanour and catchy tunes soon found ringing applause.
If confirmation was ever needed of his growing success, it will be found this month when he plays his biggest headlining show at London's Scala on 27 September. It is for that purpose that I met with him in a north London boozer.
"All of my London shows I've always self-promoted, just sort of playing every other week because I enjoy playing and that seems like the easiest way of doing it" he begins. This statement is certainly true; in fact the Scala show will probably be the first time many people have had to pay for a ticket to one of his gigs, so resolute is his determination to play for the sake of playing. "My general rule for playing live is that if it is possible and if it is offered then just say yes!"
He continues "Then actually someone came to me, a very good friend of mine and said "hey, why don't you just play the game a little bit? If you lay off playing London gigs for a little while and let us promote it, rather than thinking you can do it all, then you could play a venue like the Scala". It was an offer that no musician could refuse, and many of his fans won't hold loss of a meagre £7.25 against him for a chance to see it.
With that settled, talk of recording the show for a live album soon followed. "I thought well, how can we make it a bit different? So I thought we'd record it live. People have been talking about doing a live record for ages as what I do live always ends up pretty different from what ends up on tape. So I said fuck it, we'll throw it all in there". The live recording of the Scala show is sure to highlight Beans on Toast's natural charisma and enduringly sloppy performance style, though he has taken to twitter to reassure us all that he will "practice his songs" for the gig.
Looking beyond the Scala show, talk inevitably turned to the recording of his upcoming record "Fishing for a Thank You". The album was recorded completely on analogue tape live with his band, something that many musicians would find daunting, but for him it was the only way things could be done. "You've got to be comfortable with your band, especially if you're cutting it down on tape. I'm not particularly musical, I wouldn't be able to cut the guitars and then sing over it." The album was recorded in a week at Greenmount Studios in Leeds, the fast paced nature of the recording process suited Beans on Toast to a tee "I heard about these guys, they're friends of friends, someone told me about their studio and that they work on tape, they mix on the fly and work really fast. It was perfect for me, we went down and pretty much nailed it". He has his musical schedule locked in "I've kind of got my year into a cycle now. Record in September, release the album in December, then do a tour in April. And round and round we go!"
So with a new studio recording and live album on the horizon the next few months look set to be Beans on Toasts busiest yet. An April tour will follow next year in support of "Fishing for a Thank You", but if you want to hear new and old songs alike than you best get yourself down to his Scala show. It is surely one that is not to be missed.
Tickets for the Scala show can be purchased here:http://www.alt-tickets.co.uk/alttickets/home_beans_on_toast.html
Beans On Toast: http://www.beansontoastmusic.com/
Follow Clara Cullen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Clara1Cullen